Interesting times are ahead for Nucky Thompson, the boss of “Boardwalk Empire.” HBO has announced the new season of its Atlantic City-based drama also will be the last.
Creator Terry Winter said the decision to end things came after a great deal of discussion with HBO and his creative team. He says he looks forward to bringing the series to a powerful and exciting conclusion.
The show, which has garnered multiple Emmy awards, begins its fifth season in the fall.
The TV show is based on a book of the same name by Atlantic County Superior Court Judge Nelson Johnson. On Friday, Johnson said he wasn’t surprised Winter decided it was time to wrap things up.
“When I met Terry Winter in 2009 I asked him how long he thought this might run. He said, ‘Maybe three years or four, but we don’t do anything more than five years.’ So it doesn’t surprise me,” Johnson said.
“You have to keep in mind that it is very difficult to keep talented people committed to a series for that length of time,” Johnson said. “Does Steve Buscemi want to commit to a sixth or seventh year? Probably not.”
While Johnson’s book was a history of Atlantic City’s politics and its rise to prominence as a national resort, the HBO series is a fictional account of Atlantic City political boss Nucky Thompson — played by Buscemi — and his dealings with a variety of gangsters and residents in Atlantic City during Prohibition. Buscemi’s character was based on real-life Atlantic City boss Nucky Johnson.
“I tell people the book is the book, the show is the show,” said Johnson. “I think of my book as an acorn. I think of Terry Winter’s series as an oak tree,” he said. “They are working essentially off two chapters in my book. Not only could my book not fill up a season of the show, I knew they were going to do something way different than my book.”
While the storylines of “Boardwalk Empire” were fictional. The show went to great efforts to accurately capture the look and atmosphere of Atlantic City in the 1920s. This included building a replica of the Boardwalk in Brooklyn, N.Y., — where the show is filmed — and hiring people with local ties to advise on historical matters.
One of these is Atlantic City historian Vicki Gold Levi, who on Friday said she was upset to hear about the show ending.
“I’m in mourning already,” Levi said. “I will miss it personally, because I love the research and the work, but I will also miss it as a viewer. It’s got compelling acting and storytelling, But all things have to come to an end.”
For Levi, co-author of the book “Atlantic City: 125 Years of Ocean Madness,” one of the attractions of the series was seeing scenes of old-time Atlantic City brought to life.
“If you paid attention to the show, the Boardwalk set is amazing. It has the herringbone pattern that our Boardwalk has and the railings have the knuckles that we have,” she said. What the producers couldn’t recreate in real life, they were able to portray using computer effects.
“I watch the show and see a lot of stuff from my book that has come to life,” she said. “The attention to detail was stunning, even if the plot wasn't what really happened in Atlantic City.”
While the show was a boon to fans of local history, it also served to once again raise Atlantic City’s position in pop culture.
“I think it helps the city in the same way that having Miss America in Atlantic City does. People are more aware of Atlantic City on a broad level,” Levi said. “I have certainly heard a lot about (‘Boardwalk Empire’) in the different places that I traveled. Anytime I give a talk now, I’m always asked about ‘Boardwalk Empire.’”
Businesses in the city worked to capitalize on the popularity of the show. Casinos held viewing parties and there were “Boardwalk Empire”-themed tours of the city. When he took over as head of Resorts Casino Hotel, former CEO Dennis Gomes adopted a 1920s theme for the casino because of the show’s success. That rebranding has since been supplanted by Resort’s Margaritaville island theme.
For Johnson, being the author whose work inspired the series “was a lot of fun. My wife and I met a lot of interesting people. But that was a chapter in my life, and we go on from there.”
Johnson is already anticipating the publication of a new book by Rutgers University Press. This book details the clashes between former Jersey City Mayor Frank Hague and Arthur Vanderbilt, a chief justice of the New Jersey Supreme Court.
“They banged heads and hated one another. The story of their intense rivalry and battles is an epic story,” Johnson said.
Could it, perhaps, be the perfect material for a new TV series?
“That's like planning to get struck by lightning,” Johnson said.
(The Associated Press contributed to this report)
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